Black Coat Press, paperback, ebook, 349pp, Â£16.99
Reviewed by Ian Ink
Best described as alternative future-history, this book gleefully mixes up your favourite gaslight legends into one adventure. Here we find the sardonic Oscar Wilde, the father of weird horror himself William Hope Hodgson, Tesla, Sherlock Holmes and a visionary H.G.Wells all sharing the page with none other than old Dracula himself, on a quest to understand a threat to the future of mankind.
At first the book feels pretty daunting given its size and scope, but it soon becomes obvious that we are in the hands of a master of his craft. Stableford has been a giant in the fields of British horror and SciFi for almost thirty years now, and with each episodic chapter of the book we can see his love for the different characters clearly.
What separates this book from the crowd is the obvious passion that Stableford has for the different figures and stories heâ€™s working with. There is an absolute commitment to detail and a host of subtle nods and funny asides. When talking about a certain pale-looking Count:
â€œI doubt if any writer who would met him could resist the temptation to include him in a novel,â€ Lorrain said. â€œBut you are right: he would have to be disguisedâ€¦ and not by any mere reversal of his name.â€
Each figure has their own chapters that introduce them to the plot, which is written in their style. Hodgsonâ€™s take place amid the spiritual and actual horror of a battlefield in France (an oddly touching testament), and with Wilde we are transported to his desperately decadent daze in Paris, as he masquerades as Sebastian Melmoth.
Put together the layers of narratives fit well, in the tradition of The Time Machine and 20 000 Leagues Under The Sea â€“ adventure-fantasy mixed with horror. Each chapter is fairly short and makes the novel excellently suited for reading in instalments.
Well recommended, especially for fans of Victorian-Edwardian era action-adventure.